Friday, May 4, 2012

The Victorian Asylum - Short Story - "Better Off Dead"

The Victorian Asylum

Short Story

"Better Off Dead"

August 18, 1887

      “They wheeled her shrouded body out on the gurney and headed down to the morgue beneath the surgery auditorium. We watched and cried softly, for we knew it was not yet her time. We also knew that she had done this—to  herself…”
      Later that night, when all the nurses passed out our medicines, we hid them under our tongues and sneaked into the asylum dining room.

     “Give it here!” Alice demanded.

     “No, I found it; so, I’m reading it first.” stated Nicole.

      I grabbed the diary and the two girls jumped back. They knew not to fuck with me. I was their leader in so many ways. “We will read it together,” I announced.

     The dozen or so faces stared up at me- eagerly waiting for me to begin reading Elizabeth’s diary.

      “’Dear Diary, Mum and Dad thought it was best if I ‘rested’ for a while here in the asylum. It’s been a year and all I’ve done is made friends and met the love of my life, Robert.”

      “Robert? Does she mean the orderly?” Rebecca asked.

      “That’s the only ‘Robert’ I know of,” I said.

     “Go on, Heather, what else does it say?” The girls chanted.

      I continued reading the beautiful penmanship. “He’s unlike any man I’ve met in this horrible place so far. The men here are truly dreadful! They touch you in places only a husband should touch you. And if you’re really pretty and a virgin, which most of us girls were until we came here, they’ll take your virginity from you.” We all nodded in agreement. If you were ugly, they made you rub their cocks until they squirted. Or worse, suck them.
        “Robert and I have been sneaking around when no one is looking—and  flirting with each other. He has declared his love for me. I have accepted it and declared my love for him. If ever I get out of this hellish place, we will run away together and get married. I am old enough now that I do not need my parent’s permission to marry. Plus, they have disowned me for being insane. Be that as it may, I never want to see them again. Sending a 17 year old to an insane asylum for having emotional sickness every time I have my menses is not my fault. Most of us girls have that problem, but some are truly insane and need to be here. I have to go now, it’s time for bed. When the nurses fall asleep, I’ll be sneaking out to the dining room with the other girls to have a secret meeting. Love, Elizabeth”

     “So, Miss Elizabeth was being courted by Robert the orderly?” I said to the girls. “Shall I continue?” The girls squealed with joy. Hopefully, it would get juicy.

     “Dear Diary, It finally happened! Doctor Hartford took my female parts to end the menses and the emotional outbreaks once a month. I’m crying because, the pain is unbearable! It feels like someone just ripped my insides out and the rag they have between my legs is sopping wet with blood from the surgery. I’m surprised he used that revolting smelling stuff to knock me out for the procedure. I’m shocked that it actually worked. The pain is unbearable! I know they have stuff for the pain; but, they’re not giving it to me. I know this because Robert told me that they would give me something new called ‘morphine’. I never heard of it, of course, but he claims that the good doctor takes it for pleasure. Some doctor. Maybe, if I cry louder, they will give me something for this pain? I will try. I’ll be back. It’s been so long and no one is coming. Don’t they care? Robert would care. He would help me if he was here; but, he’s working on the mens ward today. God, how I miss him. I can’t wait to be released from here once I get better. That is, IF I get better. If I don’t stop bleeding, I’m sure to die. I know that’s happened. I’m surprised they didn’t put leeches on me. Oh, the thought of those bloodsucking creatures sucking the blood from my female anatomy. That just sends shivers down my spine.” I shivered at the thought of having leeches put on my private parts.

      “This is boring!” cried one girl. “I want to hear about Miss Elizabeth and Robert!”

      “Yeah, this is unbecoming to hear, Heather. Find something else.” Alice complained.

      I flipped through the pages and saw that she had survived the surgery. She also found out from the doctor that she had been with child. The doctor knew it was one of his orderlies that took care of her; but, he blamed some other man from outside of the asylum. It wasn’t Robert’s, either. He was always gentlemanly to her.

     Then, I found a good and juicy part. “I’ve got a good one, girls. Listen to this!” I said. “Dear Diary, I am so in love with Robert. Tonight, we made love. It wasn’t like when the orderlies do it to you. It was beautiful. I saw stars. He was so gentle and talked to me so tenderly. I wasn’t afraid either. It was like we were meant to be together, as one. He promised he would marry me as soon as they released me. Any day now. Any day now.”

     All the girls “oohed” and “awed”. “So what happened? Why is she dead?” asked a small girl at the back of the room. It was Angel. She was a tiny little girl with a shaved head. Her family had sold her hair for money. When that ran out, they sold her to the asylum, claiming she was an unfit child.

     “I’ll read the last entry.” I said, as I flipped through the pages eagerly. Without reading ahead, I began. “Dear Diary, This is the last time I will ever write in you. Robert has deceived me. He has told me nothing but lies which I hope he burns in Hell for. I am free of this place but, have nowhere to go. Tomorrow, I begin my new life. When I told him this, he got scared and started telling me that it was way too soon. That he didn’t have a place for us to move in to. I started to believe him, and then, one of the other orderlies passed us. We were hidden in the shadows, or so I thought, and he said the most horrible words in the world. ‘I wouldn’t want to be Robert. His wife is so ugly; I bet she barks at the moon!’ His WIFE?! I looked him straight in the eye and asked him if it were true. He told me it was true, but that he loved me more than anything and he wanted to marry me all he had to do was get rid of his wife so he could marry me. I should have known he was a married man. Just like he should have known I was a crazy girl. My first love. Married! I didn’t have the heart to break up his marriage or rather I thought I’d make him suffer. Suffer just like I’m suffering right now. He will regret this day forever. And so, Diary, this sheet on my bed, I am tying to the heating pipe that runs across my room and I will hang myself until I breathe no more. I know nothing of how to take care of myself. I will not wait for a married man to unwed himself, and I will make him suffer with the thoughts of me dying, here, in this insane asylum. Good-bye girls. If you should find this, keep it with you always. And NEVER trust a man. They are liars! Even the good ones. Sincerely, Miss Elizabeth Anne Dwyer aged 18.”

     I put the leather bound book down in my lap. We were all crying. Miss Elizabeth was gone now, stuck in the morgue, waiting to be burned like the rest of the past inmates. That would be after they took her organs out and sold them to hospitals for anatomy schooling. I only know this because I’ve been here for five and a half years and I’ve seen everything.

     Tomorrow, the pretty girls were going to wear their silk dressing gowns and get flowers arranged in their pretty hair and be put on display for all the men in town to see. ‘Come see the Ophelia’s!’

     “I don’t go to church, but I believe in God so, let’s say a prayer for Miss Elizabeth.” We all bowed our heads. “God, if you’re really there, please send Miss Elizabeth to Heaven where she won’t hurt anymore. Amen.”

     With that, we got up off the floor and headed back to our rooms to repeat the same routine as always, only now… without Elizabeth.

Copyright © Karen Elizabeth Waters 2012  

Edited by ZyWa


  1. this was an amazing story, youre a very talented writer! (:

    1. Thank you so much, Angelica. I'm so glad you liked my story. Part two is now available if you're interested in reading it. Thanks for the comment too. It's always nice to hear from my readers.

      Dark Kisses,

      Karen Elizabeth


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